Different styles of writing
Don't worry if you can't see yourself penning a novel or an anthology of poetry – there are many different types of creative writing, to suit every different type of writer.
Prose is a form of creative writing that reflects spoken language. Typically, it doesn't have a tempo, pattern or rhyme to it, and can include many different sub-categories:
(non-factual descriptions of events invented by the writer)
- Novel: A collection of ideas and characters that are bound together in a compelling story to become a book.
- Short story: A fully developed story but with a much shorter and less elaborate form than a novel.
- Novella: Can be thought of as a small book that's shorter than a novel but longer than a short story.
- Dramatic pieces (eg monologue, duologue): A monologue is a form of writing where a single character addresses a silent listener through revealing himself/herself in a dramatic situation. A duologue involves a dramatic conversation between 2 characters.
- Playwriting: A form of writing intended to be performed by actors rather than just read alone. Typically, a story is told through a series of dialogues between multiple characters.
(descriptions of events that are factual)
- Biography and autobiography: A record of someone else's life (biography) or your own (autobiography).
- Essay: Can be a flow of writing describing a particular topic, a persuasive argument or informative text.
- Memoir: An account of experiences relating to a specific area of life (eg food, travel). Usually longer than essays – and can sometimes be as long as a novel. Different to an autobiography as the writer is not providing a broad overview of their life.
- Journal/diary: A written log of observations or events relating to a particular experience (eg dreams, travel), or a record of each day.
- Reporting/journalism: A form of writing where a writer reports on facts, people and events, but can also include their own opinions and creative thinking to make a story more captivating.
- Reviews: A form of writing where the writer critically assesses the quality and significance of a book, film, play etc.
- Letters: Informative writing on a particular topic, addressed to a specific audience.
Genres and topics
Once you've decided what type of prose you're going to write, you can think about a genre.
The most common genres of fiction include:
- fantasy and sci-fi
You can also try combining different genres to create your own, or decide to not write in any particular genre.
Before you determine the genre for a story, sit quietly and write out the ending, so that you have in your mind's eye the exciting bit of the book. Don’t let it all happen on the first page, unless that is your ploy for a shock to the reader. To help keep you on track it can be a good idea to sketch out your characters too.
Common topics in non-fiction include:
- health, family, lifestyle
- politics, economics, science
- travel, hobbies, art, photography, gardening, cooking
Poetry is a very artistic and creative form of writing. It comes in many forms, from short, rigid ones, like haikus, to longer forms with a defined pattern, like sonnets, and narrative verses, like ballads. It can be romantic or fun, fast-paced or slow and gentle.
The form and rhythm you choose can be as restrictive or as free-flowing as you want. This means that there are no real rules to writing poetry, so be creative.
Using rhyme and rhythm can be a helpful tool for those who are new to poetry – it can help you move away from other, less structured forms of creative writing.
Writing lyrics can be a great way to get in touch with your inner creativity, as it allows you to merge the art of writing with music. It can also help you collaborate with musicians – and can be great fun for writers who are able to play a musical instrument.
If you're looking for help with other aspects of creative writing, such as characters and setting, try the Open University's free Start writing fiction course.
You'll also find tips and advice on plot, characters, dialogue and structure in Ian McMillan’s Writing Lab, which is also from the Open University.